Tomorrow night the Blazers take the floor against the Boston Celtics in what will be the final game of the first month of 2011. This game is important for two reasons. First, it marks the beginning of the end of this most recent home stand, the final game will be Tuesday of next week also at home against the San Antonio Spurs, and second it will be the final game it what has undoubtedly been the finest month in the professional career of LaMarcus Aldridge.
As has been noted, LaMarcus has become the centerpiece of the Blazer offense since Brandon Roy was sent to the bench due to injury for what might be the remainder of this season. LA has emerged over the last two months as not only an All-Star candidate, but as a star that can carry his team. In its announcement of LA’s selection as Western Conference Player of the Week, the NBA did a nice job of breaking down his most recent successes:
Jan. 17 vs. Minnesota: Scored a career high 37 points while adding 12 rebounds in a 113-102 win over the Timberwolves.
Jan. 19 @ Sacramento: Recorded 23 points and nine rebounds in a 94-90 win over the Kings.
Jan. 20 vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Totaled 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a 108-93 win over the Clippers.
Jan. 22 vs. Indiana: Tallied 25 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a 97-92 win over the Pacers.
I figured I would take this time to show the full scope of how well LaMarcus has played over the last month.
Games in January (not including Thursday’s game): 13
Games of scoring 20 or more: 11
Games of scoring 25 or more: 10
Games of scoring 30 or more: 2
Games with 10 rebounds or more: 8
Games with 5 or more free throw attempts: 9
Games with 5 or more made free throws: 9
Games with 15 or more shot attempts: 12
Games with 20 or more shot attempts: 8
Games with 10 or more made shots: 8
Games with 35 or more minutes played: 11
Games with 40 or more minutes played: 8
Games with 45 or more minutes played: 3
Wins for Portland in January: 8
LA’s minutes played are a little high, and there have been at least two games in January in which LaMarcus played well and Portland lost; LA went for 31 and 14 in Portland’s home loss to Miami and for 28 and 10 while losing on the road to Dallas. Having said that, LA has established himself as a consistent offensive weapon in the paint over the last month of play.
In December, which was the real breakout month for LaMarcus, his string of back-to-back 20 or more points a night was two, 35 in a loss to Dallas and then 36 the next night at home against Minnesota. In December LA collected only three 25 and 10 nights. In January that number increased to seven, notching five in a row in the first five games of the month. As far as improved consistency, LaMarcus ran two streaks of 20-plus scoring games. Five in a row to start the month, and then six in a row ending with his poorest showing of the last two months in Monday’s loss to Sacramento. Between the two streaks, LA scored 19 points in a disappointing home loss to the New York Knicks. LaMarcus also ran his streak of 10 or more rebounds to six games during the opening six games of January.
Whether or not LaMarcus Aldridge is selected to represent the Western Conference in next month’s All-Star game remains to be seen. What is clear is that LA has stepped his game up considerably.
The last time out, LaMarcus came back down to Earth, playing his worst game since scoring only four points on December 5th in a home win against the LA Clippers. LaMarcus has two big tests coming up; his first will be Thursday night against Kevin Garnett. Hopefully LA will get back on track, and set the tone for the rest of the second half of the season.